2Tbspwateror add a bit more if you want it runnier
2Tbspwhite sesame seedsoptional
PREPARE TANG ZHONG:
Place milk and the bread flour in a small saucepan. Whisk until there is no more lumps. Cook this mixture over medium heat until it is thickened, about 5 minutes or less. Remove from the heat and let it cool down completely
MAKE THE DOUGH:
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients and the tang zhong you made earlier. Use a dough hook attachment to knead the dough until all the crumbly dough starts to come together into one mass, it may take about 2-3 minutes for this to happen. Don't be tempted to add any liquid. You may need to stop halfway and scrap the dough off the hook and the sides of the bowl and knead again several times
Once it comes into a dough, stop the machine. The dough will not be smooth, don't worry.Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. This is an important rest that bakers refer to as an autolyse (though in our case it's a short one. Read my post above for detail)
After the rest, turn on and knead the dough again and knead for 1-2 minutes until it is a bit smoother. Then add the salt and sugar into the dough. Continue to knead until the dough is relatively smooth. You need to stop and scrape the dough off the hook and the bowl several times during this process. I promise it's worth the effort!
Once you have a smooth dough, turn the machine back on again to knead and gradually add in the softened butter a bit by a bit. The dough will turn into a REAL sticky mess again because of the butter, just keep kneading and stop halfway and scrape the dough off the hook and bowl again and continue to knead until the butter is absorbed by the dough. IT WILL HAPPEN, don't worry! DO NOT be tempted to add any extra flour. You will get a shiny smooth dough that is very elastic. I promise!
Place this dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, cover it with a clean and damp tea cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise at a warm place for about 1 hour. It may not double in size, but it will puff up some for sure.
Punch the dough down, divide into 12 balls. Cover these doughs loosely with a plastic wrap and let them rest for 15 minutes. Make sure you don't skip this part of resing the dough before shaping
Pull and tuck the dough to form a smooth round ball or slightly oval (it's up to you) with the seams tucked underneath. Place the seam side down on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover with a plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel
Let the mini dough proof again for another 40 minutes or until they puff up again to about 50% or more of their original size
PREPARE HOT CROSS PASTE:
While waiting for the buns to proof for the second time, preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the flour with water. Transfer to a plastic bag or piping bag. If you make the paste runnier, you can use a small spoon to draw the cross on the buns
Brush the top of the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with some white sesame seeds (if using)
If using a piping bag, snip off the pointy end with scissors and draw a cross on the buns after the egg wash
Pop the dressed buns into the oven (3rd rack from the top) and let them bake for the next 15-20 minutes depending on the oven. It will be golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and let it cool down in the pan for about 5 minutes and then let them cool completely on a cooling rack. Enjoy and once it's cooled down completely, wrap it up with plastic wrap and it's good for about 3 days or so (it didn't last that long in our house)
The plain buns without topping can be kept at room temperature for about 3 days. Wrap them up with plastic wrap tightly.
Wrap the buns in aluminum foil and reheat in oven or toaster oven or air fryer at 350F for about 10 minutes to warm up. Then you can dress them with the topping as mentioned above
Softest Fluffiest Hot Cross Buns Ever (tangzhong method) https://whattocooktoday.com/hot-cross-buns-tangzhong.html